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The Birth of a Nation

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The Birth of a Nation

Publication date 1915
In its time, "The Birth of a Nation" was a masterpiece. Its racist undertones and revisionism are quite disturbing, but it is still worth watching for its historical influence.

IMDb entry:


Reviewer: sarahcohen - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 15, 2013
Subject: History in the making
The most famous lynching in the history of the U.S.A occurred during the same year this film was released. The lynching of serial pedophile, rapist and convicted child killer, Leo M. Frank. Is there a connection?
Reviewer: Oquin - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 1, 2012
Subject: A historically correct- albeit truncated, portrayal of the Reconstruction period
Once you get used to the silent aspect of it, this is an engaging film. I enjoyed the second part more than the first & the ending, most of all. In the 70s, even college history classes were very dry-entirely sanitized & did not nearly portray the horrors of the Reconstruction. (It didn't match the stories passed down in my family at. all.) We hear a lot, today, about "hate" & "racism", but I have never heard anyone- especially those who are so frivolously accused of these, reach the poisonous hatred & viciousness of the abolitionist yankees of the era or of the liberals & blacks, today. I have just finished "Authentic History, Ku Klux Klan, 1865-1877 (available on this website); written in 1924 by Susan Lawrence Davis, & this movie is a good companion to it. (The book was what compelled me to seek out this movie) The parallels between then & now are truly chilling. The rhetoric of the abolitionists- especially of the, then, governor of Tennessee (William Brownlow), Harriet Beecher (Stowe) & her brother, Harold, was appalling beyond expression. I wish they would run this on tv to provide people with some perspective, but I'm sure it would only be denigrated & ridiculed by the left, anyway.
Reviewer: micah6vs8 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 16, 2011
Subject: A Transformational Film
A groundbreaking film of its time, in technique and scope. An accurate portrayal of American racism between whites and blacks in the 19th century. Like Huckleberry Finn it is inexcusable to censor or window dress the film to make it more pleasant to our 2011 ears.
Reviewer: kareneliot - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 16, 2011
Subject: I do not exaggerate
You should only watch this if you are strong enough to handle having the Civil War in your soul.

Why? Because this movie WILL stick with you like glue, that is - unless you have no soul...
Reviewer: doowopbob - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 29, 2010
Subject: ..For Those...
...Wondering how to convert this 3 hr. epic to a "Freeware Video Converter" on video... drag this film to the window and click burn.Wah-lah ..Its Freeware..
Reviewer: rhgliere - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 24, 2010
Subject: Soundtrack
It doesn't seem like this is the original soundtrack, but I really wanted to know where the music was from. Included in the soundtrack are Mendelssohn's "Ruy Blas" overture, Dvorak's 8th Symphony, the last movement, and Edvard Grieg's Holberg Suite.
Reviewer: Brian Pinette - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 19, 2010
Subject: A Masterpiece of any ERA
Like Gone With the Wind (the Producers looked at Birth of A Nation to compare their vision) - this film must be viewed through the eyes of the people who saw it when released. Opinions are not facts. It was an international success. Their beliefs at the time are not necessarily the beliefs of those today. They were not even the beliefs of everyone from that era. Films are a point of view of the Director. And the closing card of the film, as noted by a previous reviewer states the Director's intent. The acting, scope, style are indeed a powerful, as is Gone With The Wind when viewed today. In GWTW black people were referred to as "darkies" & "inferiors." That reflects the author of the book and her writing. When looked at with open minded hearts and eyes and placed in context of the time it was released - indeed, a masterpiece.
Reviewer: trilby1989 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 15, 2010
Subject: Historically Speaking
David W. Griffith's wonderfully visionary story about World War I, the consequences of seeking retributions from and causing damage to Germany under the Treaty of Versailles, the formation of The League of Nations to try to enforce the unfair terms of that treaty, and the equally horrible (but very predictable) retaliation by the misled followers of a racist visioniory of an Aryian nation named Adolph Hitler; right up to the invasion of Poland to reclaim the Polish corridor.

That's the movie you saw, right? If not, maybe the adage "Those who do not learn from history are forced to repeat it." applies.

Thanks D. W. G. for showing us that how we end war(s) is more important than why we fight war(s).

Racists be damned, this is a 10/10!
Reviewer: Dee_Grooovy - favorite - September 10, 2010
Subject: I agree with one reviewer...
..who stated that technical innovation is not enough to make a movie great; storytelling is just as, if not more, important.

And the racism in this film should NOT be simply overlooked or excused.

What is especially insidious is that the story is portrayed as 'fact'.

There was an interview with Griffith in 1930, (seen on Masters of the Silent Screen) and when asked about this film, he actually believed this is what the South post-Civil War was really like - at first, I thought, 'how in the WORLD could he actually think that?' Then, I read a little about him on Wikipedia - and, considering his background, it's not surprising in the least - not only was he a Southerner, but his father was an Army Colonel in the Confederate Army. So, it's not wonder he had such viewpoints.

What is doubly sad, though, is what a blockbuster this movie was. Just gives you an idea of the mentality of this country at the time...
Reviewer: Timbo's films - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 2, 2010
Subject: The Birth of the Epic
Considering most movies at this time were shorts, the feat of conceiving, let alone producing three hours in a new and such untried medium, must have seemed inconceivable at the time.
Where does a director start, with such a potentially powerful and new media at his disposal? His country's history and of course, the Civil War, which ultimately shaped it. The interweaving of the personal drama is standard now and though those parts seem a little disconnected and boring now - probably because watching 3 hours on a laptop, viewing inevitably gets interrupted.
As to the whole racist element - I'm not condoning it for one second, but this was 95 years ago, it was partly based on a novel called The Clansman and obviously was a big issue then and Griffith didn't have hindsight. Testing the water, you could say. I did find it interesting that his clansmen are more like Samurai as they storm into confrontation than the subsequent and more usual portrayal of them as they went about their despicable business.
Quite rightly it has its place in history and one which I can now cross off my list to see. Any film that stands the test of time is either confrontational, controversial or technically ground-breaking. This is all three. That also means not perfect and not necessarily completely enjoyable, either.
Reviewer: Herald7 - favorite - June 30, 2010
Subject: Technical Innovation Isn't Enough
I understand that Birth of a Nation was a pioneering film as far as technical innovations. But in my opinion a film's storytelling should be just as important, if not more important than the technical aspects. And in the case of this movie, the storytelling is bigoted and frankly inaccurate.
Reviewer: The Conscience - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 30, 2010
Subject: Should A Way of Life be Censored for the Sake of Political Correctness?
Reviewers who so passionately and eloquently write against this film seem to do so BECAUSE of, rather than IN SPITE OF, its popularity. Any film that strikes such a responsive cord in a such a large population should be seen, if for no other reason than to understand the beliefs of a population, especially if that population lives next to you.

Film, like other forms of expression, reflects the ideals and values of a people and a culture. But these critics seem to argue that hatred should be repressed, not expressed for the sake of assimilation. Historically that has never worked. Repressed hatred is a pressure cooker whose pent up steam will explode far more violently than if it escaped from a relief valve.

I oppose racial descrimination and groups that advocate it, but equally oppose those who attack my freedom of speech and my right to defend myself against those who would attempt against my life or freedom of choice.

The film's primary argument is that after the Civil War, organizations such as the KKK provided a much needed relief valve for the pent up steam of a large group of proud people who rebelled against the injustice of losing their property, dignity and way of life. Gone With the Wind was more subtle, (and less explanatory) but no different.

The movie depicted government at its worst and rebellion at its best. The film will certainly be hated by the communist and globalist varieties of socialists. For that reason alone, I give it 5 stars.

The film showed that those in power who claim to supress hatred are those who repress freedom whenever an opinion or behavior is opposed to theirs. They are happy to provide us with a grey world of subservience that they design and implement while they hide their own prejudice behind their hipocrecy.

This movie offers the belief, hope and motivation to those under despotic rule, that freedom can be achieved by opposing tyranny. That lesson is as relevant today as it was after the Civil War.
Reviewer: Bythe_way - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 18, 2010
Subject: Amendments?
I cannot imagine why any human being would ever mock the sanctity of human existence. Moreover, state, “Israelites would appreciate” this type of ignorance considering the catastrophic consequences of WWII.

“Birth of a Nation” amplifies the type of society we continue to evolve from ~~ suits, social appetites, and greed have replaced ~ White Hoods.

As a direct result, social demographics along with economics are camouflaged.

This film is a depiction of community genocide in the name of reconstruction, along the lines of social order then and now.

A Familiar, ring tone of the North and South in the twenty ~ first century.

Unfortunately, it has expanded into a global state, better known as Archives!

THANKS TO Mr. Griffith and those would appreciate his work!

I believe the American dream often applauses, the impalpable in the name of history as well as social order.

While I am grateful, we have Amendments; and equally sadden that some of us choose to use them to instigate discord, rather than promote social impartiality.
Reviewer: jonc - - April 13, 2010
Subject: This can't be forgotten
My, my. A century later, this still seems to bring out the worst of the worst. You sound a little bitter, MatthewOtt.

I've never been able to watch this movie in its entirety. There is a sickness about it that makes it too painful to go further. I've watched many films of that era, with demeaning caricatures of African Americans and others, but accept those as reflections of the period. But this goes well beyond that, glorifying violence and hatred and serving as a rallying call for one of the most despicable spectacles in our history. I prefer to think Griffith was sincere in saying he had no such intention. But this is what he'll be most remembered by, and many people do not look back at him favorably for that reason.

Reading MatthewOtt's "review" initially gives me regrets of having uploaded this film and makes me consider removing it. But it's a piece of history that can't be forgotten, and it's too important to be aware that this kind of vileness is still among us.
Reviewer: MatthewOtt - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 12, 2010
Subject: A movie only Israelites can appreciate
To all you self loathing whites who's heads are buried in the Talmud...where is our white history month? The only propaganda you need to be worried about is the jewish propaganda that sees to it that our race is to be bred and illegally immigrated out of existence. This country is the New Jerusalem of scripture where Yahweh regathered his people Israel...THE WHITE RACE! This country was obviously founded by white Christian men, with the foundation of law using the bible as it's cornerstone. By not keeping our race SEPARATE as demanded by Yahweh throughout the entire bible, we have brought our current condition upon ourselves. I'd be willing to bet most of you idiots felt sorry for those satanic beasts in Haiti who 100 years ago wiped out the entire white population, changing the richest nation in the Carribean to a below 3rd world cesspool. Wake up white people, to the fact that you are the Israelites of the bible. The facts and evidence are there, all you have to do is look.
Reviewer: JohnLloydScharf - favoritefavorite - February 10, 2010
Subject: Censorship
Having read all the rest of the "reviews," it appears that two things are advocated. The first is that human beings have little or no ability to form a will of their own once shown a film. The second is that, because of the first, censorship should be allowed. The propanda that exists and is not addressed in the film is that slavery has been abolished and there was no slavery in the North. If you have been convicted of a crime, the Constitution does not prohibit it. After the 1857 decision that "negros" are not persons, in Scott V. Sandford, there was no place it could be prohibited.
Reviewer: ChefAlisia - favoritefavorite - December 11, 2009
Subject: American Terrorism Documented
This film document unequivocally white Americans culture both with distorting history and with terrorism. Much of what the KKK did back in those days was never prosecuted and that has effected white sense of justice when it comes to African American to this day. (Seeing some of the comments here, prove my point!)
Reviewer: skybandit - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 6, 2009
Subject: History
Ku Klux Klan founded 1865
Ku Klux Klan disbanded 1871
Birth of a Nation 1915
Ku Klux Klan recreated 1915
'Nuff said?
Reviewer: LeGrande - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 5, 2009
Subject: Ponder of Ponders ....
Here are some things that are profoundly amazing about this movie: 1. It is preserved in excellent quality compared to other films that were released in 1915. 2. The movie masterfully suspends reality. So much so that many people actually believed that what was happening on the screen was more like a documentary than a drama. 3. Those not used to watching silent films can still be drawn into the story line, even for the length of the film. 4. The KKK used this film as a recruitment tool even up to the mid-1970s, and I remember seeing an ad for a screening of the film in 1990 for the film's 75th anniversary. I'm sure the KKK was there ready to recruit. 5. This film caused some to think that the court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson was overreaching (because the film portrays blacks as "forever inferior" to whites). 6. It set the tone for civil rights as a violent good v. evil battle; a feeling that still persists among many to this day.

It is definitely worth the 3 hours you'll spend watching it, if for no other reason, than to ponder what I have pondered and to imagine how civil rights might have progressed had the movie not been made.
Reviewer: pepegot1 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 24, 2009
Subject: It's not out of date yet, unfortunately
There are those amongst us who are still waiting for the little Colonel to return with his white sheets and remove the Mulato from power. Just watch certain news programs and observe certain politcians to see this latent tendency. It is part of our culture, like it or not.
The film depicts, overtly, what many would like to do covertly today. It is representative of our worst devils and not our better angels. Therefore, it is an important film from a sociological perspective.
Reviewer: - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 24, 2009
Subject: The Greatest Film On Earth
There Is A 16th President Of America.
Reviewer: - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 24, 2009
Subject: Best Film
I Liked This Film Thankyou!
Reviewer: zorr07 - favorite - May 4, 2009
Subject: When the good guys all wore white hoods
D. W. Griffith didn't invent every technique used in The Birth of a Nation. Billy Bitzer was the cinematographer who came up with many including shooting at night. The film represents the culmination of visual strategies to communicate narrative that the film industry had been working on for the first twenty years of its existence.

However, Griffith's work should suffer the same question as Leni Riefenstahl's - Film-Maker or Propagandist? A powerful film, one may ask why can't I praise art made for hate's sake by this son of a confederate army colonel. After all it's part of movie history. This 3 hour propagandist campaign, the first "feature" film, featuring an ignoble revision of history, is a malignancy that pervades our racial mindset even today. Griffith purposely exploited as many stereotypes as possible. The film justified racial segregation, disenfranchisement and brutal murder:

"We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him." - Benjamin Tillman, U.S. Senator for South Carolina - served 1895 – 1918

Since the film opened on Feb 8, 1915 there was a recorded surge of lynchings in both the north and the south. Included among these is the Leo Frank lynching in August 1915 by a group of prominent men who called themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan.

One can be arrested for yelling "fire" in a crowded theater or for inciting a riot but Griffith's film gets one line of disclaimer for its racist content.

The film's denial of political and social equality is a denial of the U.S. Constitution, America's democratic ideal and very reason for existence. If the film was about communists it would have met a different fate. Its romanticism of [British] colonial fantasies of Aryan racial supremacy in the face of Griffith's revisionist view of Reconstruction was close to being permanently successful in barring blacks from positions of public trust in the United States for most of the last century.

50 million people saw it in the 5 years after its release. Absorbed as truth by a majority, the KKK's heroic portrayal as a special-ops-unit-4-righteousness led to its 1915 rebirth and on October 16, the men who lynched Leo Frank climbed Stone Mountain and burned a giant cross that was visible throughout the city. The imagery of the burning cross, which had not existed in the original Klan, had been introduced via The Birth of a Nation and The Clansman, the book upon which it was based. The anti-Semitic sentiments aroused by that case (Frank was Jewish), along with the ongoing racism fueled by Griffith's film, led William J. Simmons, a failed minister, to establish a new KKK on Thanksgiving night 1915 naming himself Imperial Wizard. In fact, the day the film opened in Atlanta, the local newspaper carried Simmons' announcement of "The World's Greatest Secret, Patriotic, Fraternal, Beneficiary Order," next to the advertisement of the movie. It broke all attendance records even with a $2 ticket price and had 4 runs to capacity audiences during the war years. It proved the major impetus for the reemergence of the Klan and created a nationwide Klan craze.

The new KKK emulated the fictionalized version of the Klan presented in the movie. After WWI in 1920 it grew exponentially when two out-of-work WWI publicists in Atlanta formed a partnership with a prohibition-closed bottle club owner. In 3 years, 3,000 members grew to 3 million due to better organizing techniques accompanied with special screenings of this film. At its peak in the mid-1920s, the KKK included about 15% of the nation's eligible population - 4–5 million men.

The film had a one year run in New York and was re-released in 1924, 1931, and 1938, so it remained in the public psyche for decades.
The sheer power of a film immortalizing wrong as right is what Jews, blacks and whites of good will had to overcome to achieve any semblance of religious and economic freedom, and civil rights and voting rights. Many at the cost of their livelihoods or lives.

A lesson the movie does teach is not to further abuse an already conquered people by trying to annihilate their dignity. You present the opportunity for demagogues to rise up as did Hitler and his Nazi party after the horrendous reparations Germany was forced to pay the Allies after WWI.

The Leopard's Spots is the first novel of Thomas Dixon's Ku Klux Klan trilogy that included The Clansman (Griffith's film's original title) and The Traitor. Dixon wrote them after seeing a performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin and in his anger at the play vowed to romanticize the Clan - his father and grandfather both being members. At the 1915 opening in New York, Dixon told the theater audience that he would have allowed no one but David Wark Griffith, son of a Confederate soldier, to direct the screenplay of his book. Dixon shows how important Griffith's role was in the spreading of this venom to a culture already predisposed to hatred and vengeance. Griffith brought Dixon's flawed Aryan dream for white supremacists, [neo-cons], etc. to a larger audience to create a collective memory that has exacerbated much of the misunderstanding, prejudice, fear, hate, political machinations (the Republican Party's Southern Strategy), pain, torture, death and sheer barbarism of our nation's racial history.

And all this says why it is a great recruitment film for the KKK. Further, Gish is far better in Broken Blossoms.
Reviewer: B-Movie Ben - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 5, 2009
Subject: Dare we dream of a golden day when the bestial War shall rule no more.
It was an epic when it was made, and still a work of art in cinema history.

The first part show the "gentile" South and the war. It was romanticized to the extent that brother was fighting brother, friend was fighting friend, and in meeting during the war, they remained friends. Nice, but probably not accurate. Still, it made for a good story.

The second half is filled with controversy as the Carpetbaggers invade the South and establish Black rule that is designed to crush the Whites until the Golden Knights of the Ku Klux Klan save society to live in peace. This is the story as presented, not an interpretation.

Despite the historical inaccuracy, it it still a magnificent work with amazing performances by Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall, George Siegmann, and others. It is hard to believe that words are not needed to display feelings.
Reviewer: jive5 - favorite - January 17, 2009
Subject: controversial indeed, amazingly shameful
Reviewer: ericthatsme - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 11, 2007
Subject: Amazing
I am nothing short of speechless that this film has been placed for download. Although this film is still considered controversial the controversy cannot take away from the fact that this film is a major contribution to American Cinema. D.W. Griffith (The father of American Cinema) has created a truly timeless masterpiece. I own this film and have watched it many times enjoying each viewing more than the last. Well worth taking the time to download and enjoy watching. I hope that this film will soon be followed by D.W. Griffith’s next great piece “Intolerance”, as well as any other masterpieces he created.
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